Today at 3:00, the #1 Alabama Crimson Tide and #4 Washington Huskies will kick off the College Football Playoff in a battle between SEC and PAC-12. Alabama enters the game with experience, having never been denied a berth in the Playoff. Last year, the Tide rolled through the semifinals with a 38-0 dismantling of Michigan State. Alabama then capped off their Playoff experience with a 45-40 win over Clemson, this year’s third seed. Today’s game will be held in University of Phoenix Stadium, the same venue which hosted Alabama’s championship win in 2015. For Washington, a win against Alabama would be the first loss for the Crimson Tide since September 19, 2015.
Keys to the Game: Alabama
1: Focus on This Game, and This Game Only
The Tide has the necessary talent to put away Washington. However, Alabama is not immortal. They cannot afford to overlook Washington. The last time this team overlooked an opponent, they were down 3-0 at the end of the first quarter to Chattanooga, an FCS school. They were able to win the game 31-3, but it served as a wake-up call. To focus on anything but Washington would be the kiss of death for the Tide.
2: Lock Down the Passing Game
Eddie Jackson is out for the Tide, a loss that will significantly weaken their pass defense. The Tide currently run man coverage, so the remaining secondary needs to step up to lock down Jake Browning. John Ross and Dante Pettis need to be stopped if the Tide wants to eliminate their vulnerability to big plays through the air.
Keys to the Game: Washington
1: Maintain Air Superiority
As mentioned above, the Crimson Tide are down their best pass defender. If quarterback Jake Browning and standout receivers John Ross and Dante Pettis can get in their groove, they can exploit Alabama’s secondary. If Washington wants to pull off a win here, it will most likely be through the air.
2: Turnover Margin
Washington’s defense has forced 33 turnovers this season, the best in the nation. Jalen Hurts has a tendency to make bad decisions on deep balls, sometimes trying to force it to a receiver with no chance of coming down with a catch. Washington has the best turnover margin in the BCS, complimenting their aggressive defense with a stingy offense. If they can take care of the ball today, they have a shot at winning.
I don’t think Washington will win, but I think they can do well against the Crimson Tide.
#1 Alabama Crimson Tide: 42
#4 Washington Huskies: 31
Alabama by 14